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October 18, 2018

Sexual abuse allegations in Pennsylvania's Catholic Church are now the subject of a federal investigation, two sources told The Associated Press on Thursday. The Department of Justice has reportedly subpoenaed the state's Catholic dioceses for confidential files regarding the allegations.

This reported investigation comes after an August grand jury report unearthed the names of more than 300 Pennsylvania priests accused of child sex abuse. The massive report soon triggered similar investigations in other states, including New York.

Pennsylvania's statute of limitations prevented further investigation into a number of the report's allegations, though two priests were charged after its release, AP notes. Under federal law, a number of sex abuse crimes, including sex abuse with a minor, have no statute of limitations. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 16, 2018

Brothel owner turned Nevada Assembly candidate Dennis Hof has died, just a day after his 72nd birthday, Nye County police confirmed Tuesday.

Hof was often described as "Nevada's most famous pimp," and starred in the HBO documentary series Cathouse. The bombastic Hof also authored The Art of the Pimp, which foreshadowed his foray into politics earlier this year. Branding himself as the "Trump of Pahrump," Hof unseated a three-term incumbent to win the Republican primary for Nevada's state Assembly in June.

His curious blend of vice and politics led to quite the unique birthday party the night before his death. Hof was celebrating with porn star Ron Jeremy, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and tax opponent Grover Norquist, The Nevada Independent reported. The party doubled as a campaign rally at the Love Ranch, one of his several brothels.

A Nye County spokesman said Hof apparently went to sleep on Monday night, and was found unresponsive the next morning. His death looks "normal" on its face, Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly told the Independent, but there will still be an autopsy.

Hof's campaign manager, Chuck Muth, first tweeted about his death on Tuesday, and later told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he was "confused and stunned" by the news. Hof's Democratic opponent Lesia Romanov sent her condolences to "those who care about him." Nevada state law mandates Hof's name stay on the ballot this fall, but polling places will post that he has died. If Hof wins the election, county commissioners will appoint another Republican to take his place. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 4, 2018

The Department of Justice has indicted seven Russian intelligence officers on hacking charges, saying they allegedly targeted anti-doping agencies in retaliation for Russia's ban from the Olympic Games, the DOJ announced Thursday.

The seven defendants have all been charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, with some facing a variety of additional wire fraud, identity theft, and money laundering charges in incidents that started around December 2014. The intelligence officers, working under Russia's GRU intelligence agency, allegedly targeted American and international organizations "based on their strategic interest to the Russian government," a DOJ press release says. Those organizations included FIFA, an international group investigating chemical weapons attacks, and a Pennsylvania nuclear facility.

Most of the attacks happened remotely, the indictment alleges. Yet in some cases, like when the intelligence officers allegedly infiltrated an anti-doping conference in Switzerland, two of the defendants apparently traveled to hack their targets' WiFi networks. The group would then release some "selected items of stolen information" under the name Fancy Bears' Hack Team "in a concerted effort to draw media attention," the indictment's press release details.

Russia has long been suspected of retaliatory hacking after its doping scandal got it banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics. Hackers under the Fancy Bear name previously leaked drug test findings from top athletes, including Serena Williams and gymnast Simone Biles, per BuzzFeed News.

The indictment was not part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe, but three of those indicted Thursday were also charged in February with interfering in the 2016 election. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 2, 2018

The Pentagon has intercepted at least two packages thought to contain the poisonous substance known as ricin, The Associated Press reports.

The packages were caught Monday during a screening in a separate building on the Pentagon grounds, a spokesman tells AP. The spokesman wouldn't say who the packages were addressed to, but a U.S. official said they were headed for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson. All the mail from Monday is under quarantine and "poses no threat to Pentagon personnel," another spokesman said. Ricin is made from castor beans, and inhaling it could lead to low blood pressure and respiratory failure. The FBI is investigating the incident.

The Pentagon packages arrived Monday, but around noon on Tuesday, two people were hospitalized at Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) Houston campaign office after "apparently being exposed to a white powdery substance" in a piece of mail, the Houston Fire Department tweeted. Ricin can take such a form, but an investigation into the substance is still ongoing, Houston's ABC affiliate reports. The entire building was evacuated, though it has since reopened after hazardous substance testing proved negative.

The attacks are reminiscent of the ricin-filled letters sent to the White House and a Senate office in 2003 and 2004. No suspects in those attacks were ever apprehended. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 28, 2018

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) announced Friday morning that he would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Flake, who is not running for re-election and has been an outspoken critic of President Trump, had been seen as one of the few Republican lawmakers who might be willing to buck the president and disrupt Kavanaugh's path to confirmation.

In a statement, Flake said that he was "prepared to support Kavanaugh" since right after his routine confirmation hearings earlier this month, based on Kavanaugh's "view of the law and record as a judge." Of the sexual misconduct allegations that have emerged since then, Flake said that he had pushed for a hearing before any vote was held, and that hearing took place Thursday. "I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty," Flake said, but "what I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence."

The Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Flake is a member, will vote on Kavanaugh's nomination Friday morning. If the committee votes to advance his nomination to the full Senate, a full confirmation vote is expected within a few days. Read Flake's full statement below. Kimberly Alters

September 27, 2018

President Trump has officially postponed a meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein scheduled for Thursday. Trump wants to avoid doing "anything to interfere" with the ongoing hearings about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told The Associated Press.

Trump was expected to fire Rosenstein after a New York Times report published Friday said that Rosenstein mentioned using the 25th Amendment to force the president out of office. But in a press conference Wednesday, Trump said he'd "certainly prefer not doing that." Rosenstein oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, and Trump said he would like to "keep him and let him finish up." After all, Trump said, he spoke to Rosenstein briefly on Monday and Rosenstein denied mentioning the 25th Amendment.

The meeting with Rosenstein was scheduled Monday, but it would've come in the midst of Senate Judiciary Committee testimonies from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.

Trump couldn't meet with Rosenstein earlier than Thursday because he was at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The meeting will happen sometime next week, Sanders told AP. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 19, 2018

Cody Wilson, owner of the controversial 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed, has been charged with sexually assaulting a minor.

Wilson, 30, allegedly met the girl, who is under 17, on the website SugarDaddyMeet.com, The New York Times reports. They each sent at least one explicit photo to each other via text, and met in person in Austin, Texas, on Aug. 15. Wilson then drove the girl to a hotel where the assault occurred, and paid her $500, an affidavit details.

Investigators were able to match Wilson's driver's license to profiles used on the website. Hotel records and security footage also back up the story, per affidavit details reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

Wilson posted blueprints online for his 3D-printed plastic gun in 2013, and sued when the U.S. State Department ordered him to take the plans down. The case was settled earlier this year, but 19 states quickly sued Wilson again. A restraining order has since blocked Wilson from posting the plans online. Wilson has taken to mailing customers the blueprints on flash drives.

Wilson could face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine under the felony sexual assault charge, per the American-Statesman. He and his lawyer have not returned the Times' request for comment. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 13, 2018

At about 5:20 p.m. on Wednesday, an unidentified man and his wife showed up at a trucking company in Bakersfield, California, and after fatally shooting his wife and a man he confronted at the business, he chased a third man into a sporting goods store and killed him, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Wednesday night. The man then went into a home and shot dead two people, hijacked a car driven by a woman with a child (both escaped), and turned the gun on himself when confronted by a sheriff's deputy, killing himself with a gunshot in the chest.

"Obviously there's some type of situation that caused the husband to be extremely upset," Youngblood told reporters, adding that he's confident there's some connection between the six people killed in the short span of time. "These are not random shootings."

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